An essential element of most modern engines, the alternator converts the mechanical energy of your motor into electrical power. This allows the vehicle to charge the battery and power electrical functions inside of the vehicle whilst running. Though usually best left to a professional, you can replace your alternator at home with the correct preparation and tools, and by following a few simple steps.
Locate the Alternator
The first step in replacing the alternator is to locate it. While the exact location varies from vehicle to vehicle, find the alternator near the battery to the side or front of the engine. Owners who are not sure what the alternator looks like can look up a photo, and then identify it by that means. The alternator does have wires attached, which is another way of identifying it.
Purchase a Replacement
When needing a replacement alternator, car owners can locate the part number on their current alternator, look online for their make, model, and year of vehicle, or check the owner's manual or parts guide for their vehicle. Most auto manufacturers publish parts guides which outline parts appropriate for use in their vehicles. After finding the part number for the alternator, buyers can purchase the replacement. Most people should also purchase a memory saver to save their electronic parts codes from the engine before tampering with it, as well as replacement belts and hoses for anything that they have to take off in order to install the alternator. These vary depending on the engine type.
Gather or Purchase Tools
Most owners' manuals or parts manuals cover the basic tools required for removing and replacing an alternator. The exact tools required depend on the manufacturer, but a large flat screwdriver, ratchet driver, and wrench are typically useful. If necessary, check the nuts, bolts, and screws holding the alternator in place, and purchase tools accordingly.
Replace the Alternator
Owners attempting to replace their own alternator should start out by unplugging the negative cable from the battery. Removing the serpentine belt or the alternator belt is also necessary, and sometimes requires special tools. From there, many vehicles have a number of belts, hoses, and wires in the way. Remove these and discard them. Disconnect any electrical links, and use a ratchet driver, electric wrench, or wrench to take out the bolts holding the old alternator in place. From there, car owners simply reinstall the alternator, replace the wiring, and replace any removed hoses and fittings with new ones. Now the replacement process is complete. While alternators are difficult to replace without a great deal of mechanical knowledge, amateurs can do it, so long as they take the time to purchase the right tools. It is also very important to purchase the right replacement parts, hoses, and of course, the correct alternator.